Forward Thinking

Never Too Late For Justice in Y.U. Abuse Case

By Paul Berger

  • Print
  • Share Share

It’s one year since the Forward published its first story about abuse allegations at Yeshiva University’s High School for Boys in Manhattan.

Little did we know then that the recollections of four former students would prompt dozens of men to come forward with their own claims of abuse. Nor could we have foreseen that it would lead to a $380 million lawsuit against Y.U. and an internal investigation that found “multiple instances” in which Y.U. staff failed to respond to allegations of abuse.

One year ago, the allegations, particularly against Y.U. high school’s former principal, Rabbi George Finkelstein, were treated within the Modern Orthodox community as a rumor. Today, it is widely accepted that inappropriate behavior went on for decades at a range of Y.U. institutions and that those in charge failed in their duty to protect students.

These are troubling times for Y.U. The institution has a special place in the Modern Orthodox community. Its deep fiscal troubles, coupled with the negative publicity and financial threat posed by the lawsuit, have conspired to create an air of crisis.

At times like these people’s instinct is to rally around. And rally they have. Anecdotally, I have heard of people hectoring the victims, who are seen as either whiners or money-grubbers. The refrain among many is still that what happened to the victims was either not serious enough or happened too long ago to be dredged up now.

I wonder how those people would feel if they read about something similar happening in the Catholic Church. If, for example, the rabbis were substituted for priests and Y.U. was substituted for an Archdiocese, would they still be as unsympathetic?

I wonder also what they make of the decades-long stories of abuse cover-up that are finally coming to light overseas.

In my native England, a revered media personality Jimmy Savile, has been posthumously outed as a prolific pedophile, leaving a sense of betrayal that he was never held to account during his lifetime. Meanwhile, many other media personalities are now making regular court appearances over allegations of abuse that took place at or around the same time students were being abused at Y.U.

In Australia, a succession of men, principally associated with Chabad-Lubavitch, have been pursued relating to sex crimes perpetrated against boys in Sydney and Melbourne. The assaults took place during a similar timeframe as those at Y.U. In many of those cases, complaints were made and allegations swirled, but the people in charge failed to act appropriately. Now, decades later, the truth is finally spilling out.

In a recent statement, an Australian-based advocacy group for survivors of child sexual abuse, Tzedek perfectly encapsulated why such action, however delayed, is important:

“Tzedek believes that the only way the Jewish community can move forward is by publicly exposing what has transpired within our community over the past few decades — despite the shame and hurt that these revelations are causing.

“We must acknowledge and take responsibility for the past for the sake of justice, and for the sake of the victims and survivors. It will also ensure we prevent such situations from arising again.”

Contact Paul Berger at berger@forward.com or on Twitter @pdberger


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Y.U., Sex Abuse



Find us on Facebook!
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.